Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – McKinleyville head coach Keoki Burbank is proud of his cousin. At the same time, he blames him for the Panthers’ 40-28 defeat on Friday night.
Hoopa Valley quarterback Ryan Reed, who connected on 23 of 32 passes for 409 yards and five touchdowns.
“My cousin played a hell of a game,” coach Burbank said. “We were playing a fantasy football league together, and I was like, ’Shoot, I’ll pick you I guess.’ He’s got big things ahead of him.”
Warriors coach Rico Tello and coach Burbank are friends and recreational league basketball teammates. They coached together for two years. Naturally, Tello praised his team’s senior leader.
“One of the great things about Ryan is he coaches on the field,” Tello said.
“It feels really good to get this win after that (60-6) loss to Arcata,” Reed said. “We had to overcome a lot of adversity. The smoke from the fires put a damper on our practices, but our coaches did the best they could, and we did the best we could do. We watched a lot of film, but it’s all productive.”
For the second week in a row, forest fires made practice nearly impossible for the Warriors. “It’s been bad, the worst I’ve seen,” coach Tello said. “When I woke up this morning there was ash all over everything outside.”
As bad as the forest fires are, there’s another more tragic note to this football season.
The Panthers wore blue in support of Fortuna player Bailey Foley, who has been in a medically induced coma since suffering a stroke in the season opener.
A bucket was passed around in the stands to collect money for Foley’s medical expenses.
This contest hinged on a clever strategy by the Warriors.
The Panthers trailed 34-21 with 8:59 left in the game, but Hoopa Valley’s defense was wavering. If Mack’s defense could force a pair of three-and-outs, a win could’ve been within reach.
That’s when Warriors offensive coordinator Willie Simms unleashed lineman Tuffy Anzora at fullback.
By the time Anzora plunged into the end zone on a 1-yard run, nearly seven minutes had elapsed during the 14-play, 63-yard scoring drive.
“This game is the first time Tuffy got to run the ball since his freshman year,” coach Tello said. “Trial by fire.”
McKinleyville quarterback Mason Sand finished the game with a 19-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds on the clock.
“We were confident and motivated coming out of the locker room because we knew we had a terrible first half,” Sand said.
Hoopa Valley took over on downs just past midfield with a 20-7 edge with less than two minutes before halftime.
A draw by running back Bobby Campbell set up a Reed pass to Kitsay McCovey for 20 yards to the Panther 26-yard line. Reed to Carlos Aguilar down the right sideline set up 1st and goal at the 1. Reed found McCovey standing alone in the right corner of the end zone with no time on the clock.
On the Warriors’ first possession of the third quarter, Reed connected with Tanner Wiltse for a 66-yard TD pass play along the right sideline.
That didn’t deter Kameron Chance. He hauled in the kickoff at the 12-yard line, sprinted right until his running lane was blocked, cut to center behind a small group of blockers, zig-zagged left, made two defenders miss, and was suddenly all alone to finish a stellar 88-yard TD return.
“I was just hoping not to get hit,” Chance said. “I tried to cut on the right side, but one their guys was in front of me. I knew I had a blocker on my left, so I cut back. All my blockers were right there so I kept on going. It led to an alley way on the outside.” Jacob Smith’s kick made it 34-14 going into the fourth quarter.
Sand directed a 55-yard scoring drive that overcame two unsportsmanlike penalties – including one on coach Burbank for protesting a non-call on what he saw as a late hit.
Despite the yellow flags, the Panthers scored as Kameron Conlin gathered in a pitch from Sand and galloped 16 yards for the touchdown.
After that, it was ground and pound by the Warriors.
“Looking for positives to build on, it starts with work ethic, it starts with pride in ourselves,” said McKinleyville defensive coordinator Curran Sanchez.
Coach Sanchez complimented defensive tackle James Solomon for fighting through double teams.
He also thought sophomore linebacker Thomas Locatelli showed skill in “running the show” on defense in his first varsity game.
Locatelli said he was not happy with himself for allowing two pass completions in his zone.
“It took a little bit for us to get our rhythm,” said Kameron Conlin, who was rock solid on D. “We have two sophomore linebackers. It’s kind of different for them – higher speed – and they’re not used to it.”
Lineman Nate Ballew was steady at center. He lost containment on defense a couple of times, but he also made some nice stops.
The Panthers (0-2) have a bye week. They resume action at Fortuna on Friday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m.